New Delhi: Snack-loving Indians are turning to chips and namkeen when stressed, feeling indulgent or are taking a break, according to findings of a new report by research firm Mintel that studied the Indian consumers' attitude to snacking.

The key drivers for Indians to eat snacks are more emotional—majority of Indians said they indulge in snacking to treat themselves, or while taking a break. Of those surveyed, 37% eat snacks to get rid of stress. In all, Mintel studied snacking habits of 3000 online respondents in 2018.

“Modern lifestyle pressures are pushing today’s consumers towards food and activities that make them feel good...consumers are looking to manage their emotional well being, and treating oneself with indulgent foods is one way consumers are managing their mood. Hence there is a correlation between what we eat and our emotional state, especially when it comes to stress eating," Minu Srivastava, consumer research analyst, India, at Mintel, said in a release on March 28.

This has prompted more consumers to look out for health benefits while picking their snacks. In the past, a bulk of consumers munched on snacks without counting calories, but a growing number of consumers today said health benefits in snacks are a key purchase driver.

“Health and nutritional benefits have become an integral part of the snacking experience, as half of Indian snackers wish there are healthier snack options," the research note said. Moreover, some Indians are justifying their snacking frequency by saying that they snack to control their weight (28%) while some said snacks help them avoid overeating during meals.

Consumers are now also seeking convenience—be it better packaged snacks or bite-sized packs.

Mintel noted that close to 40% users were seeking a variety of conveniently packaged snacks, while one-third of those surveyed sought single-serving size packaging.

India's snacking market is huge.

While brands packaged food companies such as PepsiCo, ITC, Britannia, Parle, and Nestle have scored big in the market here, local companies that offer regional snacks such as banana chips, khakras, sevs, cookies et basis local taste preferences also occupy a huge space on the other end of the market.

India’s savoury snacks market is estimated at 33,500 crore according to research firm Euromonitor; while biscuits, snack bars and fruit-based snacks are another Rs36,400 crore. Savoury snacks are expected to grow a massive 22% over the next five years, Euromonitor said in its recent estimates on India’s packaged foods market.

Consumers are increasingly scouting for snacks made with natural ingredients, and with added nutritional benefits, Mintel noted. Flavour and calorie content are among the other factors that consumers look for while picking a snack.

This Mintel said is creating more opportunities for companies to offer better and healthier snacks to Indians.

“...health guides many consumers' life choices, and snacking is no different as Indian consumers are now looking at the functional benefits like added nutrition, lower calorie content while choosing a snack. Thus, snacks need to evolve and transform with these changing consumer lifestyles and habits," Srivastava added.

Interestingly, beverages are emerging as alternatives to food as a snacking choice. Over 50% of those surveyed said they have used a beverage as a snack throughout the day.

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